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New Clause 5 — Smoke-free premises: exemptions

Part of Orders of the Day — Health Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 14th February 2006.

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Photo of David Clelland David Clelland Labour, Tyne Bridge 5:30 pm, 14th February 2006

I support the case for excluding private members' clubs from the ban. I am grateful to Ministers for giving all Members the opportunity to vote for a number of options, but I want to emphasise that clubs are different. That was outlined in the guidance issued under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003, which states at paragraph 9.2:

"The 2003 Act recognises that premises, to which public access is restricted and where alcohol is supplied other than for profit, give rise to different issues for licensing law than those presented by commercial enterprises selling direct to the public."

It says that those premises include

"Labour, Conservative and Liberal Clubs, the Royal British Legion, other ex-services clubs, working men's clubs, miners welfare institutions, social and sports clubs."

Every one of us has several such establishments in our constituencies. The guidance acknowledges that

"the premises are considered private and not generally open to the public".

It goes on to say:

"The Secretary of State wishes to emphasise that non-profit making clubs make an important and traditional contribution to the life of many communities in England and Wales and bring significant benefits. Their activities also take place on premises to which the public do not generally have access and they operate under codes of discipline applying to members and their guests."

I am not a smoker, but I do not like smoke blowing in my face from smokers sitting nearby any more than anyone else does. Nor am I opposed to a ban on smoking in private members' clubs. However, I believe that the decision on whether to ban it should be for the members of that club to make. That is the important principle that I wish to pursue.

I do not refute the health arguments, although there is a great deal of exaggeration in that regard, particularly when hon. Members accuse club members of killing their staff. That is a little over the top. As Mr. Gale pointed out, the Bill does not make smoking illegal. Smoking in private will still be legal. Unless we want to take the bull by the horns and ban smoking completely, some of the arguments smack of hypocrisy.

We have long maintained in this country the right of people to form private clubs in which they—the members—decide what legal activities go on. Clubs must be allowed to make those decisions for themselves and in their own time. They are democratic, non-profit-making organisations, and many of them are struggling. If this is forced upon them and they cannot make these changes in their own way and in their own time, many will close, and their staff, far from being in a smoke-free environment, will be in a work-free environment.